The West Loses Full-Time Jobs

My take on this morning’s Labour Force Survey follows:

Goods-Producing Industries Cut Jobs

Canada’s beleaguered manufacturing sector lost a further 3,500 jobs in October. Employment also fell by 1,900 in natural resources, 1,900 in agriculture, and 700 in construction.

Saskatchewan Bucks the Western Trend

Although more part-time jobs increased total employment, western Canada lost full-time jobs in October. Specifically, British Columbia lost 4,000, Alberta lost 3,500, and Manitoba lost 1,500. The notable exception was Saskatchewan, which replaced part-time employment with full-time employment. Saskatchewan gained 4,700 full-time jobs in October.

Ontario Employment: A Closer Look

More than half of Canada’s job growth occurred in Ontario. However, these employment statistics were hugely inflated by part-time work and self-employment. Ontario gained 25,900 part-time positions, but only 6,400 full-time positions. While 24,800 Ontarians took up self-employment, only 6,500 found jobs paid by an employer. By either measure, the province’s labour market has performed only one-fifth as well as the aggregate figures might imply.

Wage Growth Promising

Following two decades of anemic wage growth, average hourly wages rose at an annual rate of more than 4.0% for the third consecutive month in October. From October 2006 through October 2007, wages increased most in Newfoundland (8.4%), Alberta (7.1%), and Saskatchewan (6.2%). However, wages remained sluggish in British Columbia (1.8%) and Prince Edward Island (0.1%).


  • A closer look at the numbers over the past several months would seem to indicate a huge weakening in sustainable jobs. Highlighted by this month’s large gains in public sector employment, the decline in sustainable jobs has been dramatic. It seems as though the media actually might be picking up on this. When this eventually has an effect on the remainder of the economy is hard to predict. The lowering unemployment rate will be the fuel that burns us, as I am sure it is the kind of info that the BOC will use for its inflation hawk stance. Poised high above the booming construction sector will be the threat of rising interest rates. If these rates are raised you will see the combinatorial forces of rates increases, tightening mortgage rules that have spread from the US, and the weight of our own housing bubble. This forces could implode and the result will be massive layoffs in the construction industry. The construction industry has undoubtedly served as the safety net from the meltdown in manufacturing. The employment in construction is some 3-4 fold above historic rates. However, it is still a relatively smaller industry when compared to manufacturing. So the BOC has got to think long and hard about using these employment numbers to raise rates. There is so much of the economy that is hard wired to that rate, from the rise of the dollar to the construction industry and others. It is a delicate time for our economy and if anything these numbers for last month are quite soft boiled.

    Imagine the globe including a bit from Ken G. on the LFS numbers, they must have read the PEFs critique of their tax cut reporting the other day.


    I would also add into the mix for this month is the administration of the Ontario election may have somewhat skewed the monthly totals.

  • I really don’t understand why you seem to think it necessary to find a negative spin for every LFS release. Full-time employment in Canada rose by 0.26%, and full-time employment in western Canada fell by 0.09%: why is the latter figure in the headline, and not the former?

    And it’s not as if this one-month decline is representative of a trend. Full-time employment in western Canada is up 2.9% since last October, and the working age-population has grown by 2.2%. Of all the problems facing the Canadian economy, job creation in western Canada has to rank very, very low on our list of priorities.

  • Fair points, Stephen. However, the spin is not always negative. As recently as August, the CLC’s press-release headline was “Working People Make Gains in July.”

    Generally, I do try to raise concerns to balance the legions of economic cheerleaders who applaud the sheer number of jobs created each month without regard for what types of jobs are being created or where they are being created. Specifically, I thought that the loss of full-time jobs in three of four western provinces was a surprising and interesting “hook” for this post.

    In any case, you will be pleased to know that the loss of full-time jobs in western Canada garnered no news coverage (except in a couple of radio interviews that I did). The Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen, Vancouver Sun, and a couple of smaller western papers instead quoted my line about “two decades of anemic wage growth.”

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